It’s time to male allies to think about inclusion in new and meaningful ways, says Mark Freed, Co-founder of E2W Services.
As men, we all need to think about diversity and inclusion. There are so many benefits that can be realised for men in the workplace and for society, as a whole, if they do. Through understanding and learning, men and women can flourish and progress in their careers and foster a culture where everyone can bring their whole selves to work.
Being the only one
Firstly, it’s helpful for men to consider what it is like to be the only one in a group of people. Remember a moment when you have been the only one ‘in the room.’ Maybe you have been the only man in a group of women or the only Manchester United supporter when all your friends or colleagues were Chelsea supporters. How did that make you feel? How did you react? Would it make a difference if another person with similar characteristics came alongside you?
When you I ask this question, I find it is not unusual for white men not to be able to recall a time when they were the only ones in the room. And if they can remember, they were often there as the senior person in the room or the one with a special skill. By asking this question we are reminded that our colleagues from unrepresented groups find themselves being the only person in the room on a daily basis. As white men, how can we really understand what that feels like and how our everyday actions affect them?
As human beings, we all come from different backgrounds and we all have different experiences that we bring to work, there are also things that we like to hide. It is important to seek and discover the things that bring us together and the things we have in common. Through this, we can begin to celebrate diversity and create a culture of inclusion, which ultimately leads to better outcomes, happier staff and more productive workplaces.
Being free to be inclusive
As men we are often asked to become allies to women and those in underrepresented groups. Often, it can be seen as a privileged man coming in on horseback and saving the world! What this doesn’t show us is that by creating an inclusive environment men can experience a wealth of benefits for themselves, as well as those around them. Even today, very few people ever think about what inclusion means for men. Let’s discover the benefits of inclusion in the following four areas:
Our careers: Do you long to work in an inclusive environment where your thoughts and ideas are heard, and these are recognised as coming from you? Do you long to be promoted on merit rather than who you know or what your background is? An inclusive workplace creates a better place to work, where everyone is appreciated and valued for being unique. You are supporting your own career, as well as the careers of others.
Health & Wellbeing: Research tells us that inclusive environments and societies create better health and wellbeing outcomes. There are fewer male suicides, fewer cases of depression and better overall mental health. As men, we can all benefit and experience better outcomes through fostering and thriving in inclusive environments.
Opportunity & Choice: During the 1970 and 80s, workplaces were populated by stereotypes. Women at work were rarely seen out of the typing pool or reception and men would ‘man’ the offices, often seen in higher-paid management roles, subject to their backgrounds and general life status. To progress as a man, we were expected to fit the mould. Today, those constraints are being removed and we can now bring our whole selves to work. We can choose to be openly gay; we can choose to become stay at home fathers. Although we are still on a journey to fully inclusive workplaces, there are so many more opportunities and choices for men in this new world.
Responsibility: Ever since the turn of the century and the plight of the suffragettes, we have celebrated the success of women receiving the vote. History now tells us at that in fact, more men became eligible to vote for the first time, as a result of the change in law, than women. Throughout history underrepresented groups have stood up and fought for the right to be heard and accepted, many of these privileges we now enjoy.
Through Men for Inclusion, we are encouraging men to take up the baton of responsibility and hold hands with others to create inclusive and diverse workplaces.
As the majority group, with equal stake in the benefits, we hold it our power to drive and accelerate change to a point where we can remove this barrier once and for all.
Avoiding ‘Accidental Sexism’
Often as privileged males we are unaware of accidental sexism. This is something we don’t do on purpose. It may have been bred in us from an early age and we are often cognitively unaware of it in our daily lives. Accidental sexism can happen in the workplace. Research tells us women often feel unable to show female traits from fear of negativity or may feel informal work activities are male-led and exclusive and, these are just a few examples. It’s only by understanding and recognising that we sometimes get it wrong, that we can we become more aware of the needs of others in our workplaces.
Understanding the 5 C’s of Lived Experience in the Workplace
To help understand how accidental sexism affects women in the workplace we have put together the following explanatory table showing examples of negative behaviour and the how it impacts on the work environment.
As the majority in the workplace men have the power and responsibility to champion women and others from underrepresented groups in the workplace. By doing so, they can realise the benefits for themselves and those around them whilst understanding how our actions could either hinder or slow progress towards a more inclusive environment. Men hold the baton in their hand to make the choice to change behaviour that will create a better world both for , and for those around us.